15 May 1941: Bomb Disposal Squad Faces 330 UXBs While Short of Men

15 May

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HMS Encounter badly damaged by bomb

HMS Encounter badly damaged by bomb


Malta is short of manpower for bomb disposal, it emerged today. An experienced Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal officer and sergeant disembarked from Breconshire last month but trained Other Ranks who were also expected have failed to arrive.  The extra manpower was intended to replace personnel of 24 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, members of which have been being seconded to bomb disposal work since June 1940. 

The RE Bomb Disposal Officer and Section deals with all unexploded bombs across Malta and Gozo, outside of Royal Navy and RAF premises. Their workload has been especially heavy in the past month of heavy enemy bombing: 330 unexploded bombs have been reported.  An average of 15% of bombs dropped fail to explode.

The secondment to Bomb Disposal of some 20 Other Ranks from 24 Company has had an impact on important Field Works which are also the duty of the Royal Engineers. The Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office today to query the non-arrival of the expected Sappers.  He is in favour of the NCOs of 24 Company currently serving in bomb disposal to continue in their duties but is anxious for the expected additional 44 Sappers allocated for bomb disposal to be sent to Malta at an early date. (1)


Military personnel have been issued with a strong reminder about the importance of maintaining proper blackout across Malta. In an order issued to 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment today, troops have been told that infringement in military buildings of blackout orders and restrictions on the use of electric lights is much too frequent. 

According to the order, some soldiers seem to be under the impression that civil regulations in this respect do not apply to them. This is much resented by the civil population, who think that their lives and property may be endangered by such carelessness.  Company commanders have been ordered to impress on all ranks that blackout infringements will be treated seriously and that soldiers are as much bound to comply with civil regulations as any other citizens; they should, in fact, have a higher standard of discipline.


Weather  Fine.

0743-0810 hrs  Air raid alert for a JU 88 bomber which approaches and carries out reconnaissance over the Island while escorting enemy fighters patrol out to sea.  Anti-aircraft guns engage the bomber without result.

1211-1240 hrs  Air raid alert for 25 ME 109 fighters which cross the coast at various points and drop bombs on the Luqa area.  One Wellington is burned out and three Beaufighters damaged.  Hurricanes are scrambled and engage the raiders; one Hurricane** is destroyed in combat.  A ceiling barrage by anti-aircraft guns is unsuccessful.

1523-1615 hrs  Air raid alert for 15-20 ME 109s which carry out a bombing raid on Luqa and Hal Far aerodromes, where a Fleet Air Arm store is badly damaged.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Enemy fighters then scout the island in small formations, one of which attacks  Hurricanes on patrol.  One Hurricane is shot down and the pilot killed. 

0312-0500 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy aircraft in three formations which approach from the north, cross the coast at various points and drop bombs and mines on Grand Harbour, Valletta and the Luqa area. In the Dockyard, a bomb on Hamilton Wharf damages a generator station. HMS Encounter is hit by a small bomb in the boiler room, causing considerable damage. MV Amerika suffers superficial damage from a near-miss.  More mines are laid at the entrances to Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto Harbour.  A new type of mine is dropped in the raid, identified as G mines, rather than the parachute mines used recently.  Two Hurricane night fighters are scrambled.  There is only one illumination low down: Bofors and light anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders; no claims.

Military casualties  Sergeant Ernest Victor Wynne, Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Valletta  Anthony Cremona, age 54; Paul Vella, age75. Zabbar  Anna Psaila, age 82.


ROYAL NAVY Cachalot arrived from UK with 16 tons of special stores on board.  5 Swordfish took off on a search for convoy: nil report.  ‘G’ mines dropped by aircraft in entrance to Grand Harbour: Harbour closed. Unbeaten gunned and damaged 800 ton schooner.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland patrol east Sicilian coast. Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.  Hurricane photo-reconnaissance Gela aerodrome; photos reveal 18 unidentified aircraft, believed fighters. 

HAL FAR  Sgt Wynne killed in aerial combat with ME 109s.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 11; dealt with 0.

(1) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press, 2010/2012


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Posted by on May 15, 2016 in 1941, May 1941


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